WiT Wednesday #1: Ada Lovelace

When I was creating my History of Women in Tech presentation for StrangeLoop 2013, Ada was the first person that came to mind.  Reading up on her story, I can relate to her well.

Who was Ada Lovelace?

Augusta Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace made her impact in 1815-1852.  While her father is the famous poet Lord Byron, her mother did not want her daughter following in his footsteps and did everything she could to make sure that Ada wouldn’t become a poet.  Instead, her mother had her study traditionally-male-geared topics of maths and science.  Ada once asked her mother

If you can’t give me poetry, can’t you give me “poetical science”?

Being born with that creative mind, Ada wanted to exercise her creativity.  Ada was known for speaking in metaphors and also had a vivid imagination.  For Ada, the combination of math, imagination, and metaphors would be a magical combination.

 In 1828, Ada doodled a flying machine.  A few years later, at 17 years old, she met her mentor – the famous mathematician, philosopher, inventor, and mechanical engineer Charles Babbage.

Ada and Babbage would exchange a lot of writing, between what he was working on and what she could come up with inspired by his works.  Ada predicted in 1843 that Babbage’s Analytical Engine would eventually be used to:

  • Compose complex music
  • Produce graphics
  • Practical & scientific use

Her predictions may not have come true then, but modern analytical engines do allow those functions and more!

Ada documented Babbage’s Analytical Engine and also created what is known as the first computer program.  Her program calculated a sequence of Bernoulli numbers with the engine.

She also managed to have a personal life outside of the technical realm.  Ada was the wife of the Earl of Lovelace, hence her title Lady Lovelace.  While she was working with Babbage, she also had another important job – being a mom to 3 children under the age of 8!

What did you learn from Ada’s story?

  • Choose a mentor who you’re interested in learning from and feed off of and into their energy.
  • She had a male mentor – the mixed-gender mentoring system worked back then.  I know many people are skeptical of mixed-gender mentoring relationships.  Why can’t it work today?I have had many male mentors in my career, and I’ve found them to be great guys to learn from and also encourage.  Whether they were database admins, IT admins, business owners, software developers, public speakers, or some other background, they’ve been able to offer guidance that has proven invaluable throughout my career.  I personally have been blessed with my mixed-gender mentoring relationships.
  • Moms sometimes find a balance between their personal life and their career.I am still young and finding my footing on this one.  I have a 1.5 year old – definitely nowhere near the 3 kids under 8.  But I’m slowly finding that balance for me.


Tackling Tech Trouble One Step at a Time…

I recently had a chat with my MVP Lead – the awesome Esther Lee – and in my chat with her, I realized that I had some frustrations with the tech industry as a whole.  My biggest frustration is with the images that the women in tech movement has been creating.  We see problems that have happened in various tech communities – problems that honestly aren’t unique to a community or even unique to tech but happened to happen in those communities.  We see a lot of negative portraits coming out – and very few positive pictures.  And we wonder why women aren’t getting into tech?!?!

If you paint a picture in a negative light, that’s what people pick up on.  Not all people can see the light in the darkest rooms.  Some people are afraid of the dark, and the dark will keep them away.

At StrangeLoop 2013, I spoke to a crowd in the theater of the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis on the History of Women in Tech.  Looking back on that talk, there’s a lot of the positive pictures, with a lot more that haven’t been covered in my talk because of time constraints.  To combat my frustration with the negative pictures, I’m bringing in the positive… the positive influences, the women in tech who have been successful despite being in the minority, the women who haven’t let their gender get in the way of success.

Starting October 30, I’m introducing Women in Tech Wednesdays, talking about some of the women in my presentation plus many other women outside of my presentation who are making waves or leaving footprints on the moon (or the tech career equivalent).  I’m bringing back the positive, because honestly, I’m sick of all of the negative with an imbalance of positive.  Time to shine the light through the darkness and show others that if you look past the darkness, there’s all sorts of cool lights!

In the Mind of an Introverted Speaker…

This was originally written on September 12, before Ohio LinuxFest and Strangeloop.  This will give you a glance of what my inner introvert tends to do.  Thankfully, writing this blog post shot my inner introvert’s sabotage plans down and both talks went well.

Within the next week, I’ll have delivered 2 presentations at 2 different conferences. With one slide deck done and submitted and another slide deck being re-arranged, I’m confident in the materials and the talks that I’m giving.  Thankfully, I don’t have technical demos in either of these talks, so the demo gods can’t spite me.  However, my inner introvert is not cooperating at the moment.  Many of you may not believe I’m an introvert just from my activity in the community, but really, I’m an introvert surrounded by extroverted friends and being around them challenges me to keep up.  This is what goes through my mind as I get ready for a presentation.

Conference Submissions

Me: Oh hey… there’s a conference coming up that I’m interested in.  I should submit a talk or two there!

Inner Introvert (II) : This conference is HUGE! They’ll have stages – you don’t like stages. Really… remember your first conference with a stage, even with a panel, it was tough to be up high and look down at your audience.  Almost 15 years later, and I’m still warning you about stages. You can’t submit and then present on a stage. Stage fright… and besides, on a stage, there’s that chance of falling and your fear of heights.

Me: Quiet!  I don’t care about stages.  The people… the hallway conversations… the content… I’m submitting these talks.

II: But stages… stage fright! Remember that time 4 years ago when you panicked on a stage?

Me: I made it up on the stage, and I had my friend Catherine talk you out of me so that I could present.  You’re the trouble, II. We have to get past the stages issue.

*submits talks*

Preparing Talks

II: So your talk got accepted. Now you’ll be presenting on a stage…

Me: II! Go away! I’ve got a presentation to write. It’s going to be awesome!  And this time, your friends – the demo gods – aren’t invited. No technical demos for them to mess up.

II: But you won’t get rid of me. And when you’re up on the stage, I’ll make sure you tense up and lose your voice, just as I started in 2009.

Me: Seriously? Do you think that’ll work again? Inner self-confidence will conquer you, II. Whether there’s a stage or not, I will be fine.  I’ve got an entertaining talk, an educational talk, one not to be missed.  And my audiences – they’re awesome too!  I’m going to conquer the stage fright. Just you wait.

Preparing to Present

Me: Finally… at the conference!  Let’s check-in and see where my talk is going to be.

II: Sweet… now I can see the stage and scare you even more.

Me: Why did they let you in too? Go away, II! I’m off to see where I’m presenting and will be calm when it’s my turn.  The one last situation where you used to win – where I’m up on a stage and have to try to read my audience below me – I’m ready to tackle that and win.

5 minutes before the talk….

II: You have to talk down to the audience. Look at you, up high on a pedestal for all to see. Look down to read them, and remember your fear of heights.

Me: Really? You’re a jerk, II. I’m up high thanks to the stage. But I’m going to ignore you. You’re just a jerk.


Yes, I have an inner introvert that is trying to mess with me as I prepare for these 2 talks, which may involve stages and big rooms.  But experienced me has gotten stronger over the years to tune out that inner introvert when it comes to game time.